A former Colombian paramilitary leader with extensive links to organized crime has been released from prison, which may have significant consequences for Colombia’s underworld and the country’s largest drug trafficking group, the Urabeños.
On July 30, Freddy Rendon Herrera, alias “El Aleman,” was released from the maximum-security prison Itagui after completing an eight-year sentence, reported El Colombiano. A judge ordered his release earlier this year after determining he had satisfactorily fulfilled conditions set out in Colombia’s Justice and Peace Law, which offers former paramilitaries reduced sentences in exchange for their demobilization and testimony on the armed conflict.
Rendon led the Elmer Cardenas Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a coalition of right-wing paramilitary groups that completed formal demobilization in 2006. Rendon is also the brother of Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” a former paramilitary chief and founder of criminal organization the Urabeños.
Rendon is required to continue attending court hearings for the next four years, and if he doesn’t follow through with this obligation he is subject to receiving 40 years in prison, reported El Colombiano.
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Rendon’s close ties to the Urabeños — including their current boss, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” — suggest the former paramilitary may be well-positioned to re-enter Colombia’s underworld. Following the decline of other neo-paramilitary groups such as the Rastrojos, the Urabeños are now unquestionably the biggest drug trafficking organization in Colombia.
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Rendon’s re-emergence would be good news for the Urabeños, who despite their position atop Colombia’s criminal landscape have struggled to withstand a prolonged security offensive in their heartland, the northwest region of Uraba. Colombian officials also say recent drug seizures have cost the Urabeños hundreds of millions of dollars, and that the criminal organization is now “desperate for money.”
Nonetheless, the Urabeños still have their top leader, Otoniel, and the drug trafficking group would stand to benefit by adding the criminal contacts and expertise Rendon acquired during his years operating in Colombia’s underworld.
However, Rendon’s release also opens the door for his potential extradition to the United States. Rendon is wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges, although his extradition request has reportedly been temporarily suspended. In February, Colombia’s Supreme Court approved the extradition of another former paramilitary who had completed the Justice and Peace process, Rodrigo Perez Alzate, alias “Julian Bolivar,” but President Juan Manuel Santos later overruled the decision.